One of my favorite things about traveling for Mattaponi Queen has been visiting independent bookstores and learning about the ways they’re reaching out to the community. Harvard Bookstore, founded in 1932 and located right in Harvard Square, was one of the most innovative and welcoming I’ve visited yet.
The first thing I noticed was the diverse array of staff recommendations scattered throughout the store–in the art books, the fiction, the poetry, the political science books. In the same way that Newtonville Books asks their guest writers to sign a back wall, I thought it would be cool if bookstores gave blank recommendation tags to writers who are reading in the store so they could highlight favorite reads. Then customers could not only get more help with browsing, they could also see who’s read in the store lately.
The crowd at Harvard was great–responsive and warm, with good questions–and after the reading, Harvard’s owner, Jeff Mayersohn, showed off a unique attraction: Paige M. Gutenborg, the book-making robot:
Using this robot (one of about 30 in the world), customers can print Google Books or self-publish their own works quickly and on demand (and at a fraction of the price charged by vanity presses). In the past month alone, Harvard printed 1,100 books. Two excellent recent examples: a book of short stories by a fourth-grade class, and Microchondria, a collection of short short stories by writers in the Cambridge community.
Both books have been very popular, and both produced great events for the bookstore. What a terrific resource for teachers and writers!
Usually I don’t have much time to browse after my readings, but at Harvard I bought this anthology for Richard. It’s a new release from the University of Georgia Press, and I knew he would like it because the first poem is one of his favorites: Frank O’Hara’s “Poem (Lana Turner Has Collapsed!).” I enjoyed browsing the anthology on the train from Boston to New York, which I’ll write about next…